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PWC: Parente (GT), Aschenbach (GTS) win Saturday at Mid-Ohio

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Two past Pirelli World Challenge champions won the first races of the weekend for the series’ second-to-last Sprint weekend of 2017 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Alvaro Parente (GT) and Lawson Aschenbach (GTS).

GT

In a dominant flag-to-flag drive from pole, Alvaro Parente won his third GT race of the season as he continues his title defense. Driving the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3, Parente was never headed over the course of the 50-minute race.

With a late-race restart coming after Pablo Perez Companc beached his No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Turn 10, Parente just had to hold off the pair of Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, Michael Cooper and Johnny O’Connell in the Nos. 8 and 3 cars.

Bryan Sellers was fourth in the second K-PAX McLaren with Patrick Long scoring a top-five for Batavia, Ohio-based Wright Motorsports, in that team’s No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Kyle Marcelli was sixth in both his and the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 team’s return to the championship.

Top-finishing GTA driver was James Sofronas in his No. 14 GMG Porsche, thus giving GMG its second win on the day after George Kurtz won GTS Am earlier in the day (below).

GTS

Lexington, OH – Jul 29, 2017: The Pirelli World Challenge racers take to the track on Pirelli tires during the Pirelli World Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course presented by Honda Racing/HPD at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH.

Lawson Aschenbach finally got on the board in Pirelli World Challenge GTS competition in 2017, giving the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R its first win in the series. It has won two races in a row in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ranks with Stevenson Motorsports, a team Aschenbach competes for there, but drives an Audi R8 LMS in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Aschenbach, a several-time PWC champion including back-to-back in GTS in 2014 and 2015 with Blackdog Speed Shop, became the sixth driver with the sixth different manufacturer to win this year in class. Chevrolet follows Ford, KTM, SIN, Porsche and Panoz, which had swept both races on each of the five weekends thus far.

This race was crash-strewn with several cars going out and much of the race run under yellow flag conditions. Alas, in the green flag period, Aschenbach got around polesitter Harry Gottsacker in his Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta G55 off the start and never looked back. Ian James recovered from sixth on the grid to come to second in his Panoz Avezzano GT, with Gottsacker third and GTS Am class winner George Kurtz fourth in a GMG McLaren 570S GT4.

The win is the 23rd in his PWC career, which has seen him win titles in GT, GTS and TC.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.